Lighting up the holidays with elaborate displays

By Tracy McNew


Troy’s Christmas Lights Contest results were announced on Saturday, Dec. 22. This year’s four winners included Barb Pence and Paul Olson for Most Over the Top Display, Doug and Deanise Killlingsworth for Classic Christmas, Chuck and Chris Ekstedt for Most Unique, and Rick and Nancee Tallmadge for People’s Choice.

The People’s Choice award was a new addition to this year’s contest and it was decided on by votes submitted through Facebook. Rick and Nancee Tallmadge who won People’s Choice, along with the other three winners, received $100 donated by local businesses.

The Tallmadges donated their winnings back to Kootenai Pets for Life and the Tobacco Valley Animal Shelter in memory of Jeni Bradley Evans who originally started the Christmas lights contest. As one Facebook post put it, the contest “was her bright idea.”

One of Evans’s employees at the time, Angie Huisentruit, has continued with the contest, and according to Nancee Tallmadge, “It’s getting bigger and better every year.” Not only are more people participating, a list of addresses was compiled this year so that people could drive around and find all the houses. In addition, a Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt was held on Dec. 23 with about 25 different things for families to locate including a Christmas dinosaur, the Grinch, and a tree through the roof.

The Tallmadges, who put 20 to 30 hours of work into decorating their home each year, feel that the event is helping Troy become more of a Christmas destination. People from Libby and Bonners Ferry came to see their home this year, and along with the town’s annual Christmas tree lighting that is held after Thanksgiving every year, the event adds joy and excitement to the holiday season. “We all just admire each others work. No one is in it for the money, it brings the community together,” Talmadge told The Montanian.

Troy’s living Christmas tree is arguably the largest in the country: a Ponderosa Pine that’s about 150 years old and 80 feet tall, according to its sign. The tree has been lit annually since 1931, other than during the WWII blackout, and every year Santa and Mrs. Claus come out to greet kids, there are games to play and snacks to eat, and when the tree is lit, it can be seen from all around town.

Although Troy can boast success, Libby’s light displays did not pale in comparison. Lights at Ponderosa Hights were enough to brighten spirits and stop traffic on Christmas eve. Lit luminaries lined the roads highlighting holiday light displays throughout the neighborhood, and a drive down Louisiana and through downtown did not disappoint. A few highlights included a unicorn sighting atop a red Ford, a no L symbol to interpret, and no less than three nativity scenes at one private residence.

This year’s People’s Choice award winning lights display in Troy. Photo by Pam Peppenger, The Montanian. Top Right: Luminaries along Shalom  Drive in Libby as seen throughout the neighborhood on Christmas eve. Bottom Right: Close up of just one part of a home ’s brilliant and detailed light display located near Pioneer Park in Libby. Libby lights photos by Tracy McNew, The Montanian.